Tag Archives: Storytelling

Faith Ringgold Retrospective & Ideas for Implementation in the Classroom

More than two decades I was introduced to Faith Ringgold’s gorgeous quilts. They became catalysts for a memoir unit with my middle school students in New York City. We visited an exhibit of Ringgold’s quilts to look up close at the beautiful illustrations, vivid stories, and craftsmanship of her quilts. Not only is Ms. Ringgold an artist, she is an author and illustrator as well. I read to students her famed Tar Beach, a beautiful story quilt turned picture book, introduces readers to Cassie Louise Lightfoot. She has a dream, to go wherever she wants for the rest of her life. One night the rooftop (tar beach) of her family’s Harlem apartment building, her dreams come true when the stars lift her up, and she flies over the city, claiming the buildings and the city as her own. The pictures themselves are bright and colorful illustrating Cassie as she floats among the stars and night sky. Students wrote their own memoirs with magical realism elements like Ringgolds. 

Faith Ringgold’s art is now on display at the New Museum in New York City. The museum states, “Bringing together over fifty years of work, “Faith Ringgold: American People” provides the most comprehensive assessment to date of the artist’s impactful vision. For sixty years, Ringgold has drawn from both personal autobiography and collective histories to both document her life as an artist and mother and to amplify the struggles for social justice and equity. From creating some of the most indelible artworks of the civil rights era to challenging accepted hierarchies of art versus craft through her experimental story quilts, Faith Ringgold has produced a body of work that bears witness to the complexity of the American experience.” Within the beauty of her art she brings attention to issues of race, gender, and economic inequalities. She provides an element of art history and art criticism to her work, especially her quilts, and borrows from other cultures to present her art work in new ways likeTibetan Tankas. Her work is semi-autobiographical which lends it self as a model of agency and voice in art and writing. 

As a explored the exhibit and mused over Ringgold’s lifetime of work, I thought there were multiple entry points to use her artistry in the classroom. 

Art History & Representation

The New Museum provides on its website, an activity for kids based on 

The Sunflowers Quilting Bee at Arles: The French Collection Part I, #4, (1991). In The Sunflowers Quilting Bee at Arles, Ringgold portrays a group of famous and influential Black women from across history seated at a quilting table: Sojourner Truth, Harriet Tubman, Madam C.J. Walker, Ida B. Wells, Mary McLeod Bethune, Fannie Lou Hamer, Rosa Parks, and Ella Baker. These women advocated for African American rights, freedoms, and opportunities, reshaping the course of American history. The group stitches fabric covered with sunflowers, while the mid-nineteenth-century Dutch artist, Vincent van Gogh, stands in the background holding a bouquet. Some of Van Gough’s most famous works are his paintings of sunflowers in Arles, which are referenced in the title and imagery of this work. 

Ringgold said of The French Collection series: 

“….I wanted to show there were Black people when Picasso, Monet, and Matisse were making art. I wanted to show that African art and Black people had a place in that history.

 …For me it also had a lot to do with my mother, as you know. She was a seamstress, and she taught me how to back the quilts up and how to put the seams in and hold them together. Although she was a dressmaker, she still knew all the steps to make quilts, because she had grown up at a time when African Americans still made quilts to go on beds. Women would sit around and make quilts and talk and tell stories as they did. So yes, storytelling and quilts have been related for centuries…” 

— Faith Ringgold, interview in the exhibition catalog, Faith Ringgold: American People

When students examine the quilt, ask them “What is the relationship between the man holding sunflowers and the women at the quilting table, and what are they doing? Who is in the background? Who is in the foreground or front of the painting? Who do you think the artist wants us to notice first?”

Think how Ringgold’s mixed-media story quilt inspire us to make a narrative artwork honoring people we know from our own lives and families, or important people from history or today? 

Students can create a mixed-media story quilt collage using materials available (or digitally) to celebrate people we know and love in our daily lives, or people we admire from afar. 


Blending Art, World Cultures, & Personal Heroes

Besides Ringgold’s story quilts, she created “tanka paintings” — tanka is a Tibetan Buddhist painting on cotton, silk appliqué, usually depicting a Buddhist deity. In the 1970s, Ringgold began making paintings on fabric inspired by Tibetan tankas that could be easily rolled, transported, and stored. Although they represented a departure for Ringgold, an important thread from previous series remained: the use of hand-painted text. The Feminist Series includes quotations from nineteenth-century feminist icons such as Maria Stewart and Clarissa Lawrence that hold special resonance for Ringgold.

Students can learn about and research Tanka paintings. Similar to Ringgold, students choose an icon they wish to represent on a Tanka they will create.

History of Quilting

Faith Ringgold took the traditional craft of quilt making (which has its roots in the slave culture of the south – pre-civil war era) and re-interpreted its function to tell stories of her life and those of others in the black community. African American quilts are significant artistic pieces of both the past and present history for black Americans. They tell stories of slavery and segregation, giving viewers valuable history lessons while also representing beacons of hope. They are symbols of culture, community, and freedom. For more information about the stories behind African American quilts check out arthelp.com. Students can research and report on the incredible history of quilting and see how it impacts present day fabric artists like Bias Butler.

One of Faith Ringgold’s most famous story quilts is Tar Beach, which depicts a family gathered on their rooftop on a hot summer night. Check out the video about Faith Ringgold talking about creating her quilts.

Memoir & Storytelling

Faith Ringgold’s artworks–startling “story quilts,” politically charged paintings, and more–hang in the Studio Museum in Harlem, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Guggenheim Museum, the Museum of Modern Art, and other major museums around the world, as well as in the private collections. Through her quilts she retellings her family memories. Have students write their own memoirs and then illustrate them.

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Podcasting: A Tool for Blended Learning

This week I am sharing a post I wrote for Kasey Bell @shakeuplearing. Check out the post on Kasey’s website CLICK HERE.

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ISTE’s Virtual Creative Constructor Lab Inspires Creative Storytelling

Last week ISTE kicked off its first ever Creative Constructor Lab bringing together amazing educators to inspire ALL, experiment with digital storytelling, design thinking, coding and more. Over seven days there were 70 virtual hands-on sessions, daily creative design challenges, and lots of sharing among participants. Innovative leaders and presenters included Tim Needles, Claudio Zavala, Holly Clark, Josh Stock, Sean Arnold, and many more talking about injecting creativity into our classrooms through hands-on presentations and design challenges.

What inspires you? That was the theme that was threaded through each presentation and design challenge. #Eduleaders and presenters invited participants to be courageous and creative throughout the week in order turn around and do the same for our students.

Here are five innovative projects to do with students that are grounded in storytelling and video creation.

  1. Craft Your Own Narrative Based off Humans of New York. Kelly Hilton, TK-12 Professional Development Integration Specialist, designed a creative and captive digital storytelling project that is based off Humans of New York Stories. First, students explore photography and read the stories told by the famous writer, photographer, blogger, Brandon Stanton. Then, students learn about the potential impact of telling a story through writing and photography on social media when they study a specific news story. Next, students, are invited to take photos and tell their own stories. Finally, students publish an Adobe Spark Post and write a social media post telling the story of the photo. Stories and posts are shared to celebrate community.  CLICK HERE to see the #HyperDoc lesson plan.

2. Middle School educator Sherri Kushner @Sherrip shared a visually powerful project her students created in order to speak out against injustice. Students designed portraits for change. These mixed media designed highlighted student voice and activism.

3. Author of the new ISTE publication, Awesome Sauce: Create Videos to Inspire Students, Josh Stock shared dozens of quick video and bigger projects. From choice boards to PSAs, Test Reviews, Travel Videos, Screencasts, and more, Josh is a wealth of information and ideas to use videos for communication, learning, and showcasing understanding.

4. Tim Needles is the master of design challenges. An art teacher and artist in New York, Tim emulates creativity. Some of the daily challenges included: create an untraditional selfie, animate a selfie, create a 4 frame romance story, and create a Spark Video Poem. Here are the directions for the Spark Video Poem and the untraditional selfie. I am going to do both with my students in the upcoming week.

5. Design a Virtual Tour. Virtual tours are a way to expose our students to a whole new world view, and there is a plethora of free tools to utilize along this journey to discovery. Virtual trips can be built into menu choice boards or educators can lead live virtual tours for distance learning. There are many pre-made tours that are already available at no cost, and also discover how to create their own using websites such as Google Earth, Google Arts & Culture, 360Cities.net, and more. Virtual trips enhance learning and knowledge of resources to help empower students on their quest to becoming global citizens. This Wakelet collections contains virtual tours, resources, and articles from Amanda Jones.

I am still reviewing and rewatching the presentations that I did not get to yet during the Creative Constructor Lab. This virtual experience provided creative ideas to bring into our classroom and inspire students as innovative designers and knowledge constructors. Whether learning in person or remotely, students need the opportunities to create and teachers must personalize learning experiences that foster independent learning across content areas using a variety of digital tools and resources that engage and support learning.

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The Power of Storyboards

Story is everywhere, it’s all around us.

I recently participated in an ISTE Digital Storytelling Webinar focusing on The Power Behind Story & Storyboard to Inspire Imagery and Creativity. Presenter and educator, Julie Jaeger states, “storytelling is meaning making, not just media making. Storytelling is a process, deliberate, intentional and purposeful.” When creating digital stories, both words and media reveal the story through details rather than being directly stated. Craftsmanship is key.

The storyboard itself is a powerful tool in the classroom for meaning making. A storyboard is a road map and guiding influence for story making. I use storyboarding for comprehension and creativity in my 8th grade English class. Whether it is a storyboard used for a 5 Frame Story, which I describe in Personalized Reading (ISTE, 2018), or sketching and stretching the setting in a creative writing piece, storyboarding requires planning, evaluation, analysis and creative thinking.

Professional storyboards a useful models and mentors for students to see how film creators utilize storyboarding for brainstorming and outlining story ideas. Julie Jaeger describes how she has students write down the feelings the frame should evoke in the viewer. Depending on the purpose of the storyboard, the details under each frame can be descriptions of types of shots, actions, and sound. The objective is to create a final product with purpose and intention for the audience.

Whereas I have students retell a short story, chapter, or sonnet in only five frames, here is a two frame storyboard activity from The Jacob Burns Film Center:

You are going to tell a visual story using two photographs.

Discuss each scene and what kind of shots you would choose to show it.

  • Two best friends telling each other a secret.
  • Looking for my favorite book in the classroom bookshelf.
  • Two kids reaching for the same favorite marker color.
  • My pencil tip breaking.

Now it is your turn to create two shots of your own to tell the story! 

  1. Choose one story prompt you would like to illustrate.
  2. Think about what shot type you would like to use to introduce the idea.
  3. Draw that shot type in the first frame.
  4. Think about what shot type you would like to use to give your audience more information about the idea.
  5. Draw that shot type in the second frame.

Once you’ve completed your Two Frame Storyboard, it’s time to turn it into photographs. In small groups, position your actors to match your storyboard. The cameraperson can move closer or further away to try to match the shot type chosen in the storyboard.

Setting Storyboard

Setting Storyboard to help students sketch and stretch creative writing.

Storyboard That is a digital platform with free storyboard templates and online storyboard creator. For a fee, teachers can create classroom accounts and sync lessons and projects with Google Classroom. As the website states:

Storyboard That’s award-winning, browser based Storyboard Creator is the perfect tool to create storyboards, graphic organizers, comics, and powerful visual assets for use in an education, business, or personal setting. The application includes many layouts, and hundreds of characters, scenes, and search items. Once a storyboard is created, the user can present via PowerPoint, Google Slides, or Apple Keynote, or they can email the storyboard, post to social media, or embed on a blog. Storyboards are stored in the users’ account for access anywhere, from any device, no download needed. Storyboard That helps anyone be creative and add a visual component to any and every idea.

Other online storyboard platforms include Boords and Canva.

From book trailers to creative story telling and movie making, storyboards help students understand story concepts and frameworks. The objective is for students gain a critical perspective in looking at images and develop an awareness of craft and structure.

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All these Wonders: Teaching Storytelling with The Moth

Today I had the privilege of attending a storytelling workshop presented by NCTE and The Moth, at Penguin Random House Books in New York City. The Moth Radio Hour, produced by Jay Allison at Atlantic Public Media and presented by PRX, highlights personal narratives and storytelling of ordinary people. In addition to listening to the Moth Radio Hour, there is a Podcast and published collections of the stories told.

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Today’s workshop, lead by The Moth Education Program, provides a framework for eliciting stories and personal narrative with students. There was a lot of talking and interacting before we even started to write. The first hour was spent meeting people and developing possible seed ideas where stories might be hiding. The first introduction required participants to complete the sentence, “I’m the kind of person who . . .”

There was lots of oral drafting before we ever put pen to paper, and this might be a great entry way for the reluctant writer/student who is more willing to try adding to or subtracting from their stories than when they physically write a draft. As teacher Tara Zinger and moth curriculum partner states, “Hearing a laugh or a gasp from a peer can be just what a student needs to know they are on the right track, and that just doesn’t happen as easily with a more traditional writing process.”

Presenter and The Moth Storyteller, Micaela Blei shares five techniques of storytelling and what makes a story compelling?

Change – Change is what separated a story from an anecdote. From the beginning to the end of the story, you’re somehow a different person, even if in a small way.

Stakes – We like to define stakes as what you have to win or lose in the story. Or, alternatively, what MATTERED to you?

Themes – Choosing a theme can help a storyteller decide how to shape this particular story. Deciding what thread or theme you want to draw out for this particular 5-minute version can help you make critical choices of details that pertain.

Show Us vs. Tell – A story is most effective when you have at least one really vivid scene: with sensory details, action, dialogue, and inter thoughts/feelings.

Be Honest/Be Real – There’s no one right way to tell a story. Be yourself.

The Moth stories online and in the published books are great for studying author’s craft and the craft of storytelling. This helps to meet the standards for Craft and Structure:

CCSS ELA Literacy. RL. 11-12.4 – Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in the text, including figurative and connotative meanings; analyze the impact of specific word choices on meaning and tone, including words with multiple meanings or language that is particularly fresh, engaging, or beautiful. (Include Shakespeare as well as other authors.)

CCSS ELA Literacy.RL.11-12.5 – Analyze how an author’s choices concerning how to structure specific parts of a text (e.g., the choice of where to begin or end a story, the choice to provide a comedic or tragic resolution) contribute to its overall structure and meaning as well as its aesthetic impact.

After analyzing the stories, students can use these same stories as models and mentors for their own personal narrative writing and storytelling. To get started, try out one of these Moth-style story prompts:

A time you did something you never thought you would do.

A time your relationship with someone your love changed – a little or a lot.

A time that you took a risk – or decided NOT to take the risk.

A time you tried to be something your weren’t.

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